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The Best Mid-Range Traditional Road Bikes Under $3500

June 15, 2018
The Best Mid-Range Traditional Road Bikes Under $3500

Traditional road bikes are built to be lightweight, agile, and high-performing machines. Whilst they typically lack the slippery aero tube shapes and profile of an aerodynamic bike, or the elongated extended wheelbase, stability and upright comfort of an endurance bike, they make up for it with feathery light frames, equally at home scampering up a climb as they are powering across a flat.

The term “road bike” is very broad these days with the emergence of endurance, gravel and aerodynamic bikes, but the traditional road bike is still a staple of many a cyclist on any weekend group ride. And when you look to the biggest bike races in the world, such as the Tour de France, it’s the traditional road bike that’s almost always selected by the general classification riders. Featuring a more traditionally-shaped lightweight frame, we've had a look through the latest crop of mid-range traditional road bikes and selected what we deem the best for AU$3,500 or thereabouts.

What To Expect

Traditional road bike at this price point are beginning to share many similar features as their range-topping siblings. Prospective buyers can expect to find either Shimano 105 or Ultegra 11-speed drivetrains fitted in either a compact (50-34T) or semi-compact (52-36T) chainring set-up for a wide range of gears.

The frame will typically be manufactured from high-end aluminium or carbon fibre, whilst forks are almost exclusively made entirely of carbon fibre. Rim brakes are still the most popular option for stopping power at this price, however, a number of disc-brake equipped steeds are starting to trickle their way down from the top-end of the market. In many cases, there’s an alternate braking option to the bikes we’ve selected.

Robust aluminium wheelsets are the rolling stock of choice whilst buyers can expect 25c rubber to be included as standard. Given the performance-focused nature of a traditional road bike, tyre clearance is typically capped at 28c, however, disc equipped models usually offer a little more space for wider tyres.

Got a little more money to burn, or simply wondering what dropping some more cash buys you? Frame materials typically move to higher-quality, lighter weight carbon fibre that reduces weight even further while increasing stiffness and sometimes ride quality. Higher quality wheelsets are also more likely to ship as standard as are more advanced electronic groupsets. To find out more about traditional road bikes and what sets them apart from others, check out our Aero vs Endurance vs Lightweight Road Bikes article which will explain the differences in detail.

Trek Emonda SL 6


When Trek created their Emonda line they had one goal, “to create the lightest line of production road bikes ever offered”. Now in its second iteration, much of the same technology that features on the top of the range Emonda SLR range has filtered down to the more wallet-friendly SL series.

The Emonda SL series represents a more affordable lightweight option, making use of Trek’s own 500 Series OCLV carbon fibre for the frame and fork. The SL 6 shares the same tubing shapes and slightly more relaxed “E2” head tube as the rest of the Emonda line-up.

The Emonda SL 6 is rounded out nicely with a complete Shimano Ultegra groupset, with the finishing kit, rolling stock and rubber all coming courtesy of Bontrager.

Retail Price: AU$3,599

Cannondale CAAD12 Ultegra


Cannondale has long been an industry leader in aluminium bikes thanks to the CAAD series. While many other manufacturers have switched their sole focus to carbon bikes, Cannondale have stayed the course and continued to develop and refine this aluminium classic.

With a complete bike weighing in at a carbon fibre rivalling 7.5kgs (size 56), much of this weight saving is thanks to the SmartFormed 6069 Alloy frame and BallisTec hi-modulus carbon fibre fork which are said to be lighter and stiffer than previous CAAD versions.

Worthy of note is that Cannondale do have a range of award-winning carbon bikes, too. The company’s SuperSix road bike is certainly worth a look at this price range, too. However, the uniqueness of the CAAD12, along with its better component package is exactly why we selected it.

The CAAD12 Ultegra is equipped with a quality build-kit comprised of a lightweight Cannondale HollowGram crankset, refined Shimano Ultegra R8000 groupset and a capable Mavic wheel/tyre system. There's never been a better time to join the Aluminati.

Retail Price: AU$3,299.99

Scott Addict RC 20


Sharing the same “'HMF / IMP SuperlightSUPERLIGHT Carbon technology”' frame and fork as more premium members of the Addict RC family, the Scott Addict RC 20 provides prospective buyers with a quick handling chassis that’s equally as lively as it is stable. The approximate weight for the complete bike is an astounding 7.35kg, thanks largely thanks in part to the 860g frame and 360g fork combo. For riders considering upgrading componentry down the track, it shouldn’t take much more than a lighter weight wheelset and a change in cockpit componentry to see this weight figure dip below 7 kilograms.

The Addict has the same racing inspired geometry as utilised by Mitchelton–Scott and offers impressively snappy power transfer. Shifting on the Addict comes in the form of a Shimano Ultegra 11-speed groupset whilst a Syncros wheelset with quality DT Swiss internals takes care of the rolling stock. The Addict RC range comes in an impressive size range, from a tiny 47cm, right up to an XXL 61cm.

Retail Price: AU$3,499

Merida Scultura Special Edition


The lightweight Scultura family of bikes from Taiwanese company Merida span right from entry-level offerings through to featherweight WorldTour rides.

Sitting in the middle of the range, the Scultura Special Edition is outfitted with a slick shifting Shimano R8000 Ultegra groupset, carbon fibre Fulcrum wheelset, proprietary finishing kit and a limited edition paint scheme that looks the goods.

The Scultura is the most expensive bike on this list, however, the addition of a carbon wheelset means that this is one steed that needs nothing more than a willing rider atop its perch.

Retail Price: AU$3,999

Giant TCR Advanced Disc 1


The TCR has been Giant's flagship road bike for over a decade, the latest incarnation being a lighter version thanks to a re-designed frame. The TCR’s carbon frame has some shed some weight and removed excess materials without sacrificing stiffness. The compact frame design with its small triangles still provides a stiff ride with great handling and some comfort thanks to the Variant seatpost.

The TCR Advanced Disc 1 comes with Advanced-grade composite frame and fork, Shimano Ultegra groupset, hydraulic flat mount disc brakes and Giant's own tubeless ready PR-2 wheelset.

Retail Price: AU$3,299

BMC TeamMachine SLR02 TWO


The BMC TeamMachine SLR02 “pays homage to the characteristics of the Teammachine family”, to give riders of all abilities a taste of what the professionals on the BMC Racing Team have at their disposal. The geometry is almost identical to the SLR01, albeit with different frame materials affecting weight and stiffness. The result is the same great handling and comfort of top-tier models, which the Swiss bike company say took literally thousands of versions to perfect through its proprietary computer technology.

The capable SLR02 Two frameset is paired with a Shimano 105 groupset complete a 50/34T compact setup on the front, paired with a wide range 11-32T cassette on the back. Finished off with a durable Mavic wheelset, the SLR02 is ready to conquer any climb you point it at.

Retail Price: AU$3,499

Fuji SL 3.1


Fuji say the SL is the lightest bike they've ever made which seems obvious given that SL stands for super light. With a claimed frame weight of just 695 grams, its clear that the SL 3.1 has been designed with weight and stiffness as the priority, but this isn’t to say it comes at the sacrifice of comfort. Like many of the bikes in this list, the SL frame features unique tube diameters and carbon layups for each size frame, designed to produce a consistent and comfortable ride quality across the full size range.

The SL 3.1 is outfitted with a Shimano Ultegra R8000 groupset and a slick shifting Praxis Works crankset. Oval Concepts provide the finishing kit and semi-aero wheelset.

Retail Price: AU$3,399

Focus Izalco Race Ultegra


The Izalco Race series from Focus fits into the performance category: Lively enough for crits, and comfortable enough for Gran Fondos and long rides that span hours on end. The geometry is largely based off its pro-spec sibling, the Izalco Max, but features a more subdued carbon lay-up. Integrated cabling also features to give this steed a sleek aesthetic.

As the name suggests, the Izalco Race Ultegra comes with an ever-reliable Shimano Ultegra drivetrain with French outfit Mavic providing the wheelset in the form of its dependable Aksium Elite wheel and tyre system.

Retail Price: AU$3,199

Cervelo R2


The R2 was created by Cervelo to provide riders with a “pro-calibre climbing weapon, with fine-tuned stiffness” on a budget. Complete with the same “Squoval” tube shapes as it’s top-tier R3 and R5 stablemates, the R2 is said to balance both stiffness and weight whilst maintaining all-important comfort for long days in the saddle. With clearance for 28mm tyres, this is one steed that’s at home on less-than-perfect pavement while exploring uncharted roads.

The R2 comes fitted with a crisp shifting Shimano 105 drivetrain and features bomb-proof Shimano RS010 wheelset wrapped in grippy Continental 25c tyres. Those wheels are far from light, and so while the frame has potential to build one very light racing rig, you’ll want to swap out the wheels in order to do so.

Retail Price: AU$2,999

Felt FR5


With the FR family of lightweight, traditional road bikes, American company Felt proves that they can design all-round race machines as well as they can wind-cheating aero bikes.

The Felt FR5 features a lightweight carbon frame with an aggressive racing geometry, great for those wanting to take their riding to the next level. Shimano takes care of the shifting with its 105 drivetrain whilst the tubeless ready wheelset is an in-house affair and comes shod with robust Schwalbe Durano rubber. So regardless of whether you’re climbing, descending or storming across the flats, the Felt FR5 can handle it.

Retail Price:- RRP: AU$3,100

In the market for a new road bike and confused by the choices on offer? Check out our What Road Bike Am I? quiz for a fun and interactive way to help you choose your next bike.